Written by William Shakespeare
Extended through May 3rd!
Holding court in a biker bar
|Wayward Productions i/a/w Chicago Fusion Theatre presents|
Review by Katy Walsh
Wayward Productions presents Richard III. Duplicity and murder are Richard’s tactics in his quest for power. Yet, instead of 1480’s in the royal court of England, it’s 1970’s in a bikers‘ dive bar. Richard’s quest is not to be King of the country. This Richard wants to be the monarch of the Warlock Motorcycle Gang. And he is willing to con and kill anyone to become supreme ruler. Richard III revs up the Hog and takes Shakespeare on a road trip.
This innovative adaptation sets the original verse of Shakespeare in the basement of a tavern. Literally, then, Director Carlo Lorenzo Garcia stages this production at the Underground Wonder Bar. As I’m descending to the makeshift theatre, a few hooligans are being kicked out of the pub. The guys are clad in leather jackets with “Warlocks” emblems. The authentic look makes me wonder if I’m in the right bar. Then, I see the additional personal insignias: ‘Buckingham‘, ‘Gloucester,‘ ‘Ratcliffe.’ Costume Designer David Mitchell effectively sets the mood for motorcycle mayhem. The dudes look fierce in their leather, tattoos and flared jeans. The broads look even tougher in their big hair and skimpy outfits. The fishnet, feather, fringe combos are 1970’s biker chic.
The locale and the dress prepare the audience for this subculture experience. These guys don’t look like actors. They truly look and act like a bikers‘ gang in a turf war. When the dialogue starts, it’s all Shakespeare. Initially, it seems wrong, but ultimately, it is so right. The timeless text plotting out ruthless strategies for dominance is what makes Shakespeare a legend. John Byrnes (Richard) delivers his lines with cocky control. Byrnes leads and divides this band of misfits. His performance has a James Dean rebel feel. It’s his cool demeanor that plays so well off the raging Natalie Dicristofano (Queen Elizabeth) and ranting Brittany Ellis (Queen Margaret). Byrnes definitely holds court and command of the stage. He is at the center of this passionately committed ensemble.
Under Garcia’s direction, the brawling is continuous. And the killing is sometimes startling and frightening. A neck is slit, spewing blood across the floor. The lady to my right is hit and spends the rest of the performance in a Lady MacBeth-like reaction. The Underground Wonder Bar is close quarters for the action. We end up participating more as barflies than spectators at a distance. Audience members line both walls, and the bar floor is used as the stage. Garcia skillfully uses three different exits for the dramatic conclusion of scenes. My only pause in this entire production is the scene transitions. The bar itself is long and there is a hiccup as the large and talented ensemble exit in a fury and return with less urgency.
Still, Richard III is a theatrical experience that doesn’t feel like a theatrical experience. It feels like life in a distant past and in a subculture governed by its own merciless protocols. This Richard III compels for its thought-provoking imagery while staying true to the classic text.
Richard III continues through
April 20th May 3rd at Underground Wonder Bar, 710 N. Clark (map), with performances Thursdays-Saturdays at 7:30pm. Tickets are $15-$25, and are available in advance through Ticketweb.com (check for half-price tickets at Goldstar.com). More information at WaywardProductions.org. (Running time: 90 minutes, no intermission)
John Byrnes (Richard III), Natalie DiCristofano, Christopher Marcum, Gavin Robinson, Josh Razavi, Jay Reed, John Milewski, Whitney LaMora, Brittany Ellis, Charlesanne Rabensburg, Max Lapine, Eric Laughlin, Spencer Smith, Bill Daniel, Robert Tobin, Allison Reinke, Ashley Yates, David Servillo
behind the scenes
Carlo Lorenzo Garcia (director, co-sound design), Claire Sangster (lighting), Ashley Rose (scenic art), David Wesley Mitchell (costumes), Meg Eaton (stage manager), Megan See (asst. stage manager), Brittany Ellis (co-sound designer)